Strobe lights are the studio equivalent of a camera flash, except that they're more powerful. Various alternatives exist including mains and battery-powered strobes for use singly or in groups. A range of accessories is available to facilitate strobe lighting control as well as to create different moods, colors, and patterns.
What Are Strobe Lights?
Strobes produce a bright light in a similar way to on-camera flash. They differ in that they're brighter, they produce extremely short bursts of light, and they recharge quickly. Strobes, usually referred to as monolights, are available in powers ranging from 100 watts up to 1,000 watts. The power determines the distance over which you can use the unit, although many models have an adjustable output to reduce light intensity for close-ups.
Light sources include LED, halogen, and xenon flash lamps. You may trigger strobes by cable or by using a remote trigger. Many models have TTL exposure capabilities.
Differences Between Strobe Lights and Continuous Lighting
While strobe lights produce a short, yet powerful, burst of illumination, continuous lighting stays on during the entire photo session. These two types of studio lighting equipment are complementary, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages to consider.
Use small apertures
Produce sharp pictures
Are limited to camera sync speeds
Exposure is separately measured
Are less bright
Need wide apertures and slow shutter speeds
Produce softer results
Use camera exposure meter
Using Light Modifiers to Change Lighting
By using light modifiers, it's possible to change the quality of light emitted by strobes and other forms of studio lighting. For example, a reflector can focus the light on the subject's face or provide side illumination. Reflectors are available in various shapes and styles, including flat, concave, and umbrella-shaped models. Alternatively, softboxes diffuse light to produce softer images, and it's possible to modify color temperature of light using colored filters and gels.
Accessories for Strobe Lights
A full selection of light stands and mounting booms, as well as positioning hardware is available to position studio lights for maximum effect, indoors and outdoors. Additionally, remote triggers and accessories eliminate cables between the camera and strobes.
Although TTL studio strobe flashes function in the same way as camera-mounted TTL speedlights, you can usually obtain better results by using light meters and accessories to accurately measure exposure. When used with a strobe, place the light meter next to the subject and facing the camera, so it measures the light seen by the camera—this is known as incident metering.
Strobe lighting opens many possibilities for indoor and outdoor portrait photography. Find LED strobe lights and all types of other lighting gear at B&H Photo and Video to extend your studio capabilities.